Technological advances, shifting demographics, and social and economic changes are creating new demands, complexities, and challenges for businesses. These forces are changing the workplace landscape and altering the way companies recruit new talent. In 2018, the convergence of business disruption, automation, the gig economy, and demographic and political shifts will result in complex challenges for recruiting professionals – but this will also be a time of tremendous opportunity.

Recruiting With Robots

Businesses run on efficiency and must continuously innovate to stay ahead of the competition. In 2018, companies will increasingly turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to grow productivity, supplement recruiting efforts, and improve talent retention.

Today, software bots have the ability to support and complement the skills of employees while relieving them of mundane, routine work that can be done through automation. At EY, we’re already using more than 1,100 bots across a range of tasks, including automation of some of our recruiting processes. We’re taking a deep look at all of our recruiting processes and determining what can be automated or done more efficiently through AI. Pilots this year include using AI to screen resumes and help candidates determine where their backgrounds and interests best match our opportunities. The more time we free up for our recruiters, the more time they can spend in the market with candidates.

Diversity Is Good for Business

This year, companies will continue to see the business case for increased diversity in the workplace. We know that companies with diverse teams perform better than those with more homogenous teams. In addition to traditional diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts that address issues such as the gender wage gap and underrepresentation of minorities and women in the workplace, some companies have also begun to embrace neurodiversity efforts.

Along with EY, tech firms such as Microsoft and SAP have begun to harness the talent and skills of those on the autism spectrum. Skills like strong mathematical and technical abilities are increasingly in demand in the professional services space, and these are skills that are plentiful and often underutilized in people with autism. 2018 will shine an even brighter light on businesses’ diversity efforts, and those companies that are slow to develop D&I programs will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

The Premier of the Prime-Time Interview

Today’s young professionals are largely subject to the “Amazon effect” and therefore demanding convenience in their job searches. In response, and to attract top talent in 2018′s increasingly competitive market, businesses are using technology to introduce new enhancements to the candidate experience.

For example, EY is now using digital interviewing to enhance and simplify the candidate experience, allowing us to respond to candidates faster. The technology is easy to use, and it helps candidates showcase themselves beyond traditional resumes. This results in a more positive experience for students. Furthermore, digital interviews create a more discreet interview process for working professionals, as they can “speak” to HR representatives and recruiters on their own time and in spaces comfortable to them.

Candidates who participated in EY’s digital interviews told us they felt better prepared, that they were able to take time to reflect and present their best selves, and that they appreciated hearing back from us sooner. In fact, digital interviewing has reduced the time of our overall hiring process by 40 percent. In the coming years, the combination of emerging technologies and changing workforce demographics will continue to disrupt the traditional application and interview processes.

Growing Demand Requires Increased Flexibility

As the times change, so, too, does the composition of an organization’s workforce. The workforce complement now includes full-time employees, work done through automation/robotics, and contingent labor. The way we look at talent, and who counts as part of our talent ecosystem, is changing. At the same time, individuals are thinking more about the type of work that best meets their personal needs.

In fact, the number of contingent workers is growing at a rapid pace. According to Intuit and Emergent Research, contingent workers will make up 43 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020. The same study also found that 80 percent of major U.S. corporations will expand their own contingent workforces in the coming years. To prepare, businesses need to embrace this disruption and update their traditional HR structures in order to effectively manage and tap into the gig workforce.

In response, EY plans to increasingly leverage its GigNow program, a technology platform that matches qualified contractors across the globe with projects at EY. This has allowed our dedicated recruiting teams to efficiently source freelance professionals with specific skill sets at their own convenience and when needed. Launched in 2017, we now have more than 6,000 candidates in our GigNow talent pool across the US and Canada, and we have filled more than 800 positions for both short- and long-term assignments and contracts.

As the percentage of workers in the gig economy grows, businesses will need to take a hard look at their traditional HR procedures to meet their talent needs.

STEM Majors in Non-STEM Industries

The future of work is already here for many professional services firms. In addition to the dynamic leaders with traditional business backgrounds and skills in accounting, tax, economics, and supply chain, professional services firms are also seeing a growing need for candidates who have newer, future-focused skill sets such as robotics, AI, cybersecurity, blockchain, and data analytics.

As our clients’ needs continue to evolve, the type of professionals we recruit at EY and the services we offer have also evolved. For example, we have recently expanded our EY Wavespaces. The EY Wavespace network helps clients achieve breakthroughs in business transformation by tapping into innovative thinking across EY disciplines, experience, and industry sectors. Developing new systems and networks like the EY Wavespace will allow our people to bring new solutions to clients that may not have been needed before. Lastly, in response to the rapidly increasing demand for such skills, EY plans to hire more STEM majors in fiscal year 2018 than ever before.

In this transformative age where entire industries are being disrupted, no one can predict the future of work. Businesses, EY included, must continue to evolve not only to attract and retain top talent, but also to ensure that their people can embrace the changes and turn them into opportunities to make the working world better.

Larry Nash is US recruiting leader at EY.

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